In ‘When Tomorrow starts Without Me’ Romano explores themes of love, death, and grief. Through an image of the Christian afterlife, the poet creates a monologue that explains a speaker’s death, his place with God, and tries to give solace to all those who have lost someone.
The poem comes from the perspective of a speaker who is considering his own death. It is written not in fear of that death, but in order to soothe those who might cry when he’s gone. The speaker tells the intended listener/s that there is no reason to cry as he has simply gone to heaven with God and the angels.
You can read the full poem here.
‘When Tomorrow Starts Without Me’ by David M. Romano is a nine stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. There are a few sections of the poem where Romano chose to add additional end rhymes. For example, in stanza one lines one, two, and four all rhyme. A close reader can also find examples of internal rhymes, or rhymes that are inside the lines other than at the ends. For instance, “rise” and “eyes” in line three of the first stanza or “way” and “today” in line two of the second stanza.
Romano makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘When Tomorrow Starts Without Me’. These include, but are not limited to, epistrophe, allusion, enjambment, and alliteration. The latter, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “came” and “called” in line three of the fourth stanza and “when” and “walked” in line one of the sixth stanza.
Epistrophe is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple lines or sentences. In ‘When Tomorrow Starts Without Me,’ Romano uses similar words throughout the poem. Many of these words are repeated multiple times. In the case of “me,” a close reader can see it at the end of six lines.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transitions between lines two and three of the first stanza and lines one and two of the sixth.
An allusion is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to mind without directly stating it. There is a good example of an allusion at the heart of this piece. Although the speaker never says the words “death” or “dying” in the text, a reader will realize that that is what he’s alluding to. The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh stanzas all speak to the act of dying, ascending to Heaven, and other aspects of the afterlife.
Stanzas One and Two
When tomorrow starts without me
We did not get to say
In the first two stanzas, the speaker begins by making use of the line that later came to be used as the title of the poem. He is looking to the future and addressing a time in which he is no longer going to be alive. It will be the day when “tomorrow starts without me”. This lonely feeling line is immediately followed up by three more that set the scene. The day will start and he won’t know if “you” are crying.
The person he is speaking to cares deeply for him but he never explains who they are. This is part of the reason that this poem has become so popular, it is relevant to a variety of relationships and types of loss.
Using enjambment, Romano transitions between lines in the second stanza. His speaker expresses his desire that this person does not cry for him “the way you did today”. There should be no regrets between them.
Stanzas Three and Four
I know how much you love me
And took me by the hand
In the next stanza of ‘When Tomorrow Starts Without Me’ the speaker acknowledges the love he shares with the listener and the fact that he will be missed. Romano repeats the word “love” twice in this stanza and several other times throughout the poem.
The speaker tries to soothe the future loss of his presence by saying that he was taken “by the hand” by an angel and brought up to heaven. This belief should give the listener some peace. The very consistent rhyme scheme in these lines means that every rhyme is perfect. This makes sense for the subject matter and for the mood the poet is wanting to create.
Stanzas Five and Six
The angel said my place was ready
From his golden throne
The next lines continue to use a technique called allusion to refer to something obliquely, without giving all the details or calling it by name. In this case, he is speaking about death and the afterlife without actually saying those words. In this section he describes what he thinks the angel will say to him, again, hoping to soothe the listener.
The sixth stanza solidifies the peaceful/calm mood that Romano was tiring to create in this poem. There are words like “smiled,” “golden” and “home” to make the reader feel the same kind of warmth as the speaker.
Stanzas Seven, Eight, and Nine
He said This Is Eternity
And All I promised you
For every time you think of me
Remember I’m right here in your heart
God speaks to the recently deceased speaker, telling him that “life on earth is done / But here it starts a new”. He is entering into a new world that will supply him with infinite happiness, and that should make the listener happy too.
In the concluding stanzas, the speaker summarizes all the points he made about his life and death in the previous seven quatrains. He can’t promise “you” “tomorrow,” and eventually he won’t be there. Again, he adds, there is no reason to mourn as he will be “right here in your heart”. The final stanza uses the ending “me” two more times, finishing off the six examples of epistrophe scattered throughout the poem.